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April 15, 2024

Page ‘betrays north coast over CSG’

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Thousands of people, including many young families, have marched against CSG in towns around the north coast in the past two years. Photo Luis Feliu
Thousands of people, including many young families, have marched against CSG in towns around the north coast in the past two years. Photo Luis Feliu

Staff reporters

State coalition minister and Byron Bay resident, Don Page, has come under fire for refusing to back a 12,000 strong petition calling for a north coast moratorium on coal seam gas (CSG).

Mr Page, who is the minister for the north coast, instead went on the offensive in parliament to attack the area’s two federal Labor MPs and members of the public opposed to CSG mining.

The widely anticipated petition was tabled in parliament last week after it reached 10,000 signatures.

It follows widespread opposition to CSG by communities throughout the north coast, including many declarations by towns and local councils against the industry taking a foothold.

Protests against CSG continued last week with residents from Lismore and Richmond Valley rallying outside local miner Metgasco’s offices and drill sites.

In his defence for dismissing the petition, Mr Page told parliament that the two federal Labor MPs earlier this year had conducted anti-CSG surveys in north coast towns, despite his government having ‘already banned CSG activity in all NSW residential areas and in a two-kilometre buffer zone surrounding every residential area’.

However, some north coast councils have recently criticised the exclusion of several villages and other rural housing clusters from those buffer zones.

Richmond MP Justine Elliot hit back saying ‘when it comes to CSG mining there’s no middle ground, you either stand with the community and oppose it, or you stand with the CSG companies and support it’.

Mrs Elliot was scathing of the minister and his party, saying ‘the Nationals have betrayed the people of the north coast in supporting CSG mining’.

She is also challenging CSG companies, saying if there are no coal seam reserves in her electorate, they should return their exploration licences.

Her National Party opponent in the election campaign, Matthew Fraser, and his party colleagues have claimed it was a non-issue, because there was no coal seam gas in the electorate.

Ms Elliot said if that’s the case, the licence holders should hand them back.

‘It’s the biggest load of rubbish I have heard, and we hear a lot of that.’

Licences cover region

‘We know that PEL (petroleum exploration licence) 445 extends virtually right across the Federal electorate of Richmond,’ she told the ABC.

‘It also is very close to the water supply for the Tweed at the Clarrie Hall Dam.

‘If they think there’s no coal seam gas mining here, give it back tomorrow.’

And Greens NSW MP John Kaye has challenged Mr Page’s ‘sustainable credentials and vision’ for the Ballina electorate.

Dr Kaye said Mr Page boasts on his webpage that his vision for the electorate is ‘to create a sustainable future for the whole community’.

‘The challenge for Mr Page is to show he is serious about the environment and local jobs by supporting our push for 100 per cent renewable NSW.

‘Starting the transition now means that regional NSW can get ahead of the global competition and become leaders in clean energy solutions,’ Dr Kaye said.

‘Clean energy alternatives will make CSG irrelevant,’ he said.

When asked if he supports Dr Kaye’s 100 per cent renewable push, Mr Page said he stood by his ‘long-standing commitment to renewable energy’.

‘Indeed I was a keynote speaker at a conference in Bangalow a few years ago, specifically on the importance of renewable energy to our future,’ he said.

‘My views are accurately stated on my website. Clearly it will take some time to transition to a 100 per cent renewables situation given both the Commonwealth and state objectives are to get to 20 per cent by 2020.

‘I would like to see the Ballina electorate better those targets which is entirely possible given our interest in renewables, the employment opportunities associated with such a focus and not to mention the abundance of sunshine. I think our area can be a leader in renewables,’ Mr Page said.

The challenge follows the cancellation last week of a proposed high-voltage transmission line from Tenterfield to Lismore.

The abandonment of the $250 million Bonshaw line, once dubbed ‘essential’ by electricity network provider TransGrid, is a victory for grassroots campaigning and follows on the heels of the cancellation of a similar line on the mid-north coast in April.

And while Mr Page didn’t name MPs Mrs Elliot and Janelle Saffin (Page) in parliament over the petition, he said ‘it was a shameless electioneering tactic, initiated by two Labor federal members on the northern rivers in a desperate attempt to boost their chances in the recent federal elections’.

‘They stood in main streets gathering signatures and spreading alarm about coal seam gas, scaremongering to try to save their seats, in the full knowledge that coal seam gas companies had walked away from the north coast months before because our rules are so tough,’ Mr Page said.

When asked by Echonetdaily to clarify that statement, given Metgasco are planning to restart drilling near Casino, he said ‘Metgasco have sealed all their CSG exploration wells and only have an interest in conventional natural gas’.

But he did not explain what he meant by ‘conventional’ gas.


Mr Page also dismissed the petition’s request to exempt the north coast from mining, saying ‘it is not good public policy to discriminate either for or against any particular geographic area of the state, no matter how close to paradise that part of the world might be.

‘This government has established sensible protection for communities, farmland, water resources and the environment on behalf of the people of NSW, now and for future generations.

‘The government’s role is not to advocate on behalf of mining companies, but to have the regulatory framework that protects our land and water resources and our environment – something that Labor never did.’

During the debate, Lismore MP Thomas George also went on the attack, accusing former Page MP Janelle Saffin of allowing mining expansion when in office. ‘She was a member of the Legislative Council when the licences were issued for the northern rivers. They took the money and ran.’

Surprisingly Mr George then stated his support for fossil fuel expansion. ‘If we do not produce the extra energy needed in this state, especially in the northern rivers, major businesses such as the Northern Co-operative Meat Company will pack up and move over the border. They cannot survive without cheaper energy.’

Meanwhile, Ballina Cr Jeff Johnson said ‘jobs in roof top solar, agricultural-waste gas, energy efficiency and demand management could kick-start a new kind of economic growth for Ballina, that can begin with the local market and expand into almost unlimited export opportunities.

‘The old arguments about the ability of renewable energy to power the state and the cost of the technology are now over’, said Cr Johnson.

‘Studies from the Universities of NSW and Melbourne and from the operators of the national grid show that 100 per cent renewable electricity is now entirely possible.’

Dr Kaye will be at the Ballina RSL Club on Wednesday, November 6, from 5.30pm to promote the Greens’ 100 per cent Renewable NSW campaign.

Additionally he will make his presentation at the Mullum Civic Centre on Thursday, November 7, from 6pm.


Olga Tresz, co-ordinator of Byron shire's Lock the Gate alliance, front, with  others at yet another anti-CSG protest in Brunswick Heads on Sunday. Photo Jeff Dawson
Olga Tresz, co-ordinator of Byron shire’s Lock the Gate alliance, front, with others at yet another anti-CSG protest in Brunswick Heads on Sunday. Photo Jeff Dawson




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  1. A typically derranged, heartless and uncaring attitude from a sociopathic politician who places corporate corruption and personal profit over the needs of the people…

    The entire australian government and every politician that supports CSG should be sacked and each one taken to the hague to stand trial for abuse of power, breach of trust and human rights violations…

  2. When we have poisoned our paddocks and our waterways where will these politicians be. What excuse will they have? Whose advice are they really taking? The countries and companies benefiting from these assets have not long term commitment to Australia and our prosperity as a clean green growing environment.

    Whether you believe in climate change or not man has advanced through ingenuity and use of renewable resource technologies instead of non renewables makes sense for those of us living here now and future generations, especially if it is foreign owned companies that are also being allowed to buy our land.

  3. In a country like Australia with its dry hot summers (&winters too sometimes) it is unthinkable that “fracking” for seam gas should ever be considered. Can you imagine the result of combustible gas leaking out of multiple ground fractures during a bush fire?
    The rural fire brigades and residents would helpless to control such a situation!
    Is Don Page intent on barbequing the the whole bloody population this summer?

  4. One presumes that the enlightened member also believes the cigarette-smoking does not cause cancer, napalm does not cause child deformities; drinking alcohol and taking drugs does not cause car accidents; frightening kids at school with high stakes blanket tests does not cause anxiety & distress. He’s waiting to see the results of large scale vandalism. A bad mannered representative of the people…ignoring so many!

  5. The Northern River should not tolerate LAZY politicians like Mr Page. There have been many issues on which he has let the community down the coast strip skinners beach, fluoridation, protection of Richmond River ( fish kills), it’s nice job to be a lounge chair politician, reap the salary and look as though you care! He is paid by taxpayers money doesn’t their voice count?

    Ilga Sleja

  6. SO disappointed in Don!!! He could have been a real pioneer for the people but yet another pollie taking the short sighted option and not giving a damn about the environment or the people who have trusted him to deliver their concerns to the government. What does he mean when in one instance he boasts about the 2km buffer zone then later makes the comment ….’it is not good public policy to discriminate either for or against any particular geographic area of the state, no matter how close to paradise that part of the world might be….’ What?? What?!! What then is a buffer zone then if it’s not a ‘particular geographic area’ ?? So we are going to end up with ‘protected’ areas and ‘unprotected’ areas are we? Who are the lucky ones who will have their homes protected? Who then will be the unlucky ones whose homes and livelihoods are ‘collateral damage’ and destined to be swallowed up by filthy industry? Where’s your place Don? Are you one of the chosen ones?
    ‘This government has established sensible protection for communities, farmland, water resources and the environment on behalf of the people of NSW, now and for future generations.’ – What an absolute crock! Don – you work for me and frankly you have failed in your performance so don’t come Monday. You really could have done something outstanding here in the Northern Rivers, what a shame.

  7. Politicians in the Australian system do not represent their electorate. Instead, they bring the views of their party back to the electorate from the capital. They vote along party lines no matter what their electorate wants.

    It is not a surprise that Don Page does not respect local views. Really, when has that ever happened? How often do Members vote against the party to support their local constituents. Does the term ‘snow ball’s chance in hell’ sound like it?

    Larry Anthony supported invading Iraq despite widespread anti-war sentiment locally. He was voted out, perhaps for this disconnect with locals, and replaced by Justine Elliot. Despite her public statements against CSG Labour still supports it, If you think Justine Elliot will vote against the party I think that is pretty naive.

    She just has creative license to smear Don Page because she has no authority to actually do anything. If she, or Labour, were making decisions they would vote YES, YES, YES to CSG. The whole place is up for sale and none of them are working for us.

  8. When’s the next election? Our state MP’s are telling us not to vote for them if we want our needs to be heard at all. It’s crazy, they are committing political suicide. C’est la vie.

  9. Mining Laws in Australia need to change. Politicians, as do mining companies have to operate within the law.
    If you want to see CSG, or any exploratory mining stopped it has to come from another level. Politicians can speak for or in this case against the communities wishes, but the law is the final barrier to this being for the communities.
    If you study the history of mining in Australia you may be surprised to know that there was a National Mining Body before there was a national government. Mining companies HAVE ALWAYS made the laws to suit their needs.
    I don’t know the facts but I am to believe we are operating under a law that is over 100 years old. Lets change that!..

  10. Crusaders wishing and hoping there is CSG or any unconventional gas in Tweed, Byron or Ballina Shire to ban and fight against won’t change the geology or make it gas miraculously appear.
    Sorry to be a party pooper despite all the hot air, including Elliot air, there simply is no gas here; with the exception of methane from Council rubbish tips and farting bovines.
    A social movement to ban fairies at the bottom of the garden makes as much sense as the LTG’s campaign to ban CSG or any gas in the Coastal Shires.
    LTG’s Ian Gaillard told me he agrees there is no CSG in the Coastal Shires.

    Dart Energy have already informed Byron Shire and the ASX that it’s a totally dud area of their massive lease with little or no prospects for any gas.
    My guess Ballina and Byron Shires make up around 15% to 20% of their recent $200,000 lease purchased from Arrow Energy (PEL 445).
    LTG should stop peddling fear and misinformation; throw around the hat and for a few bucks Dart Energy will happily part with the Coastal Shire’s area of their licence. LTG, just give Dart a call.

  11. Sadly Mark I have to agree…I guess it is naive to think that our representatives actually ‘represent’ us. Gladly however I don’t believe everything is doubleplusgood and we as a community have no choice but to maintain our insistence on NOT destroying our environment and ensuring our grand-kids and future generations have a clean water supply and enjoy renewable clean energy. Really, it’s not that hard. We could be world leaders.

  12. It gets pretty obvious that politicians and parties are at the whim of international corporations and above them the banks. I suggest non-compliance.

  13. It’s my understanding that if 10,000 signatures are collected it is a requirement that the issue be debated in State Parliament.

    It seems Page as local member has sold out his electorate…..a common trait amongst National Party Politicians and indeed the Liberal Party.

  14. The line is drawn in the sand. The Nationals continue to say they represent rural communities and Mr. Page’s display in Parliament using the age old National Party tactics of calling well researched and concerned Australian’s scaremongers and trying to discredit anyone opposed to the corporate agenda shows the parties true colours. Unfortunately, this government will probably legislate a police state scenario wiping all environmental protections and taking away our rights to peaceful protest. If our politicians continue down this path of not listening to the constituents and try to force an industry that will destroy our water and food resources it’s time to get the torches and pitchforks out. They are forcing the majority of the region in a corner leaving us no alternatives but to defend our right to clean water, air and a clean energy future. It’s time to stop saying Labour did this or the Nationals did that. Who’s doing what right now is what is important.


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